The end of war is not an event, but a process. Historians know a great deal about how societies mobilize their populations for war in the modern world but have spent surprisingly little time thinking about the process of demobilization, which here refers not just to the return home of troops, but to the whole or partial withdrawal of the legal claims of a warring state on the human, economic, and cultural resources of that state. Demobilization, then, has military, economic, bureaucratic, and cultural components that can be seen quite clearly in the literature on demobilization after 1918. World War I was a massive conflict involving millions of soldiers on the “combat” front and millions more noncombatants, including women, working under the tight control of the state on the “home” front. Beginning in 1917, most combatant states dramatically intensified their propaganda apparatus in an effort to “remobilize” their populations. The war was also broadly popular across many combatant societies for a remarkably long time, a fact that has been lost to later generations, who have been influenced by the war literature of disillusionment that emerged in the decade after 1918. Finally, the experience of the Russian Revolution introduced a new language of militancy into postwar debates over social and economic reform. Ironically, states that emerged from the war ostensibly victorious were more vulnerable to claims that they were not willing to live up to the promises made to their populations during the war. The studies reviewed in this article deal broadly with four themes: the planning for and execution of military and economic demobilization, contests over the memory and memorialization of the dead, the influence of the war experience on postwar politics, and the persistence of political violence by those who refused to demobilize at the end of the war.
The studies in this section examine different aspects of the history of demobilization from a transnational, or comparative, perspective. A collection of essays by distinguished French historians, Audoin-Rouzeau and Becker 2002, suggests some of the ways that historians can meaningfully consider the impact of demobilization. Some works examine the political (Gerwarth 2007), military (Förster 2002), or cultural (Mosse 1990) impact of the end of the war in Europe and the United States. Seipp 2009 offers comparisons of the British and German experiences of demobilization; Cohen 2001, of the care of disabled veterans; and Jahr 1998 and Watson 2008, of the ability of the armies to keep fighting during the final offensives of the war in 1918.
Audoin-Rouzeau, Stéphane, and Annette Becker. 14–18: Understanding the Great War. Translated by Catherine Temerson. New York: Hill and Wang, 2002.
A series of essays by two of France’s finest scholars of the war, this slim and provocative volume suggests, among other things, that our knowledge of postwar demobilization is “sketchy” and needs to be expanded by serious research.
Cohen, Deborah. The War Come Home: Disabled Veterans in Britain and Germany, 1914–1939. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001.
Comparative study of the relationship between states and the most visible living symbols of the war’s destruction. Cohen brilliantly uses these veterans to help elucidate the successes and failures of postwar reconstruction.
Förster, Stig, ed. An der Schwelle zum Totalen Krieg: Die militärische Debatte über den Krieg der Zukunft, 1919–1939. Krieg in der Geschichte. Paderborn, Germany: Schöningh, 2002.
Collection of essays that remind the reader that military institutions continued to think about war even as the rest of combatant societies struggled to find a new peacetime order. World War I loomed over the heads of military planners both in former combatant states and in those that did not take part in the conflict.
Gerwarth, Robert, ed. Twisted Paths: Europe, 1914–1945. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.
Comprehensive and well-written synthesis that traces the implications of the war through the interwar period and into the terrible events of World War II. Very useful in an undergraduate classroom.
Jahr, Christoph. Gewöhnliche Soldaten: Desertion and Deserteure im deutschen und britischen Heer, 1914–1918. Kritische Studien zur Geschichtswissenschaft. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1998.
Influential comparative study that finds important commonalities and differences in patterns of desertion and military justice in the British and German armies. Contradicts other historians, chiefly Wilhelm Deist, who point to a collapse of discipline in the German army in 1918.
Mosse, George L. Fallen Soldiers: Reshaping the Memory of the World Wars. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.
One of the most insightful books ever written on the subject of war and its aftermath. Mosse contends that World War I led to a “brutalization” of European culture and society, ultimately producing the much greater horrors of the next conflict. Ideal for graduate and undergraduate classes.
Seipp, Adam R. The Ordeal of Peace: Demobilization and the Urban Experience in Britain and Germany, 1917–1921. Birmingham Studies in First World War History. Farnham, UK, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2009.
Comparative study of demobilization that argues for a “crisis of reciprocity,” in which local and national governments in Britain and Germany articulated, and then failed to produce, fundamental social and economic reform in the wake of the war.
Watson, Alexander. Enduring the Great War: Combat, Morale, and Collapse in the German and British Armies, 1914–1918. Cambridge Military Histories. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.
Interesting comparison of soldier “resilience” in the British and German armies. Watson disagrees strongly with Wilhelm Deist, suggesting that German troops staged an “order surrender,” during which they continued to follow their officers.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
How to Subscribe
Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.
Purchase an Ebook Version of This Article
Ebooks of the Oxford Bibliographies Online subject articles are available in North America via a number of retailers including Amazon, vitalsource, and more. Simply search on their sites for Oxford Bibliographies Online Research Guides and your desired subject article.
If you would like to purchase an eBook article and live outside North America please email email@example.com to express your interest.
- Academic Theories of International Relations Since 1945
- Arab-Israeli Wars, 1967-1973, The
- Arab-Israeli Wars, The
- Arms Control
- Arms Races
- Arms Trade
- Asylum Policies
- Authoritarian Regimes
- Balance of Power Theory
- Bargaining Theory of War
- Challenge of Communism, The
- China and Japan
- China's Defense Policy
- China's Foreign Policy
- Civil Resistance
- Civil Society in the European Union
- Cold War, The
- Conflict Behavior and the Prevention of War
- Conflict Management
- Countermeasures in International Law
- Criminal Law, International
- Critical Theory of International Relations
- Cuban Missile Crisis, The
- Cultural Diplomacy
- Cyber Security
- Cyber Warfare
- Demobilization, Post World War I
- Democracies and World Order
- Democracy and Conflict
- Democracy in World Politics
- Deterrence Theory
- Diplomacy, History of
- Diplomacy, Public
- Disaster Diplomacy
- Drone Warfare
- Eastern Front (World War I)
- Economics, International
- Embedded Liberalism
- Emerging Powers and BRICS
- Empirical Testing of Formal Models
- Energy and International Security
- Epidemic Diseases and their Effects on History
- Ethics and Morality in International Relations
- Ethnicity in International Relations
- European Migration Policy
- European Security and Defense Policy, The
- European Union as an International Actor
- European Union, International Relations of the
- Fascism, The Challenge of
- Feminist Security Studies
- Food Security
- Forecasting in International Relations
- Foreign Policy, Theories of
- French Empire, 20th-Century
- From Club to Network Diplomacy
- Future of NATO
- Game Theory and Interstate Conflict
- Gender and Terrorism
- Genocide, Politicide, and Mass Atrocities Against Civilian...
- Genocides, 20th Century
- Geopolitics and Geostrategy
- Germany in World War II
- Global Citizenship
- Global Civil Society
- Global Constitutionalism
- Global Environmental Politics
- Global Ethic of Care
- Global Governance
- Global Justice, Western Perspectives
- Grand Strategy
- Greater Middle East, The
- Hague Conferences (1899, 1907)
- History and International Relations
- Human Rights
- Human Rights and Humanitarian Diplomacy
- Human Rights Law
- Intelligence Oversight
- Internal Displacement
- International Conflict Settlements, The Durability of
- International Criminal Court, The
- International Economic Organizations (IMF and World Bank)
- International Health Governance
- International Justice, Theories of
- International Law
- International Monetary Relations, History of
- International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution
- International Nongovernmental Organizations
- International Organizations
- International Relations as a Social Science
- International Relations Theory
- International Security
- International Society
- International Society, Theorizing
- International Support For Nonstate Armed Groups
- Internet Law
- Interstate Cooperation Theory and International Institutio...
- Intervention and Use of Force
- Iran, Politics and Foreign Policy
- Iraq: Past and Present
- Just War Theory
- Kurdistan and Kurdish Politics
- Law of the Sea
- Laws of War
- Leadership in International Affairs
- League of Nations
- Lean Forward and Pull Back Options for US Grand Strategy
- Mediation and Civil Wars
- Mediation in International Conflicts
- Mediation via International Organizations
- Middle East, The Contemporary
- Military Science
- Minority Rights
- Multilateralism (1992–), Return to
- National Liberation, International Law and Wars of
- National Security Act of 1947, The
- Nations and Nationalism
- NATO, Europe, and Russia: Security Issues and the Border R...
- New Multilateralism in the Early 21st Century
- Nonproliferation and Counterproliferation
- Nonviolent Resistance Datasets
- Peace of Utrecht
- Peacebuilding, Post-Conflict
- Political Demography
- Political Economy of National Security
- Political Learning and Socialization
- Political Psychology
- Politics and Islam in Turkey
- Popular Culture and International Relations
- Post-Civil War State
- Post-Conflict and Transitional Justice
- Power Transition Theory
- Preventive War and Preemption
- Prisoners, Treatment of
- Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs)
- Pro-Government Militias
- Prospect Theory in International Relations
- Public Opinion and the European Union
- Quantum Social Science
- Race and International Relations
- Religion and International Relations
- Religiously Motivated Violence
- Reputation in International Relations
- Responsibility to Protect
- Rising Powers in World Politics
- Russian Revolutions and Civil War, 1917-1921
- Sanctions in International Law
- Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), The
- Shining Path
- Social Scientific Theories of Imperialism
- Soviet Union in World War II
- Space Strategy, Policy, and Power
- Spatial Dependencies and International Mediation
- State Theory in International Relations
- Strategic Air Power
- Strategic and Net Assessments
- Sustainable Development
- Teaching International Relations
- Territorial Disputes
- Terrorist Financing
- Terrorist Group Strategies
- The Changing Nature of Diplomacy
- The Queer in/of International Relations
- Theories of International Relations, Feminist
- Theory, Chinese International Relations
- Trade Law
- Transnational Actors
- Transnational Social Movements
- Trust and International Relations
- UN Security Council
- United Nations, The
- US and Africa
- US–UK Special Relationship
- Vienna Conventions on Diplomacy and Consular Relations
- Voluntary International Migration
- War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714)
- Western Balkans
- Western Front (World War I)
- Westphalia, Peace of (1648)
- Women and Peacemaking Peacekeeping
- World Economy 1919-1939
- World Polity School
- World War II Diplomacy and Political Relations